Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Political Dialogue, the Primacy of Media Criticism, and Blogospheric Indifference to Alternative Media; an Essay

Is political dialogue and political thinking in this country hamstrung by a mass media that is completely owned and beholden to a narrow-interest corporate class?

Is the American public education system likewise hamstrung and beholden?

Are the People simply set on a path they cannot recognize, cannot control, and cannot change?

That certainly seems to be the case.

Part of the frustration with the Blogosphere, of course, is that the O'Sphere is as reliant on the drivel out of the mass media (and the educational establishment) as any red-blooded 'Murken. The Lefty Blogosphere relies on a slightly different set of media personalities and outlets to provide its fodder than the Righty Blogosphere ususally does, but it all comes from the same Puke Funnel, the Narrative Host, and it all leads back to the same place: The Corporate Front (or Back, as the case may be) Office.

For years, I've been saying, "You know there is an alternative. There really is. It really exists. It's out there. Available. More accessible than ever. Try it." So as not to scare the animals and the children, I point to such (usually) inoffensive fare as "Democracy Now!" as an example of the alternative -- they do some content on their own, and rely on the Corporate Media for some -- but it's often like banging on a brick wall of indifference.

No, the O'Sphere -- which can sometimes be alternative investigative media itself, and not just a critique and complaint desk -- has developed a very rigid business model, if you will, that relies heavily on the traffic generated by Media Criticism. On the Lefter side of the Sphere, certain Corporate Media personalities are subjected to a relentless rain of Blogospheric rotten apples, certain other personalities are routinely "loved," but they are all within the framework of Corporate Media, with little or no recognition that anything outside it exists, and typically with a very firm refusal to look outside the narrow-cast of the Corporate realm.

That's how the Business of the Blogosphere works, you see. There is no alternative model.

And it's interesting because it has been this way for almost as long as there has been a Blogosphere, and nothing at all has been able to shake the model, though the individual outlets might come and go. As do the targets of Lefty Blogospheric ire.

Well, except for Chris Matthews and Richard Cohen, two who have remained the mainstays of lefty media criticism since God was a Boy.

It's hard to imagine the Lefty Blogosphere having anything to say about much of anything once Matthews and Cohen shuffle off this mortal coil. It almost all came a cropper when Tim Russert died. He had come to rival Matthews for the Personality Most Worthy of Blogospheric Contempt Award, but he could never quite match the sheer lunacy of the Matthews love/hate relationship with the Left O'Sphere. You couldn't really have a relationship with Russert, whereas Matthews was and is the punk you love to slap around, a cartoon character right out of Warner Brothers.

The response on the so-called Left to Russert's passing was remarkable, too. Paeans of praise and hosannas for his work. General keening and rending of garments. Many claiming that they "Loved That Man!" What? When only the week before, he'd been denounced and eviscerated yet again for another of his worshipful interviews with someone rich and powerful? Well, yes. He was a meal ticket.

For years, the only readers Richard Cohen, a certified crank, had at the Washington Post were those who followed the links from Duncan Black's latest denunciation of him. Denouncing Cohen was an Atrios specialty, since no one else on earth had read him or would read his column. He was a non-entity in MediaLand, but Duncan practically revived his career singlehandedly.

For a time, Joe Klein was subjected to the same sort of denunciation/reverence Blogospheric Treatment, and his career seemed to get a boost as well. So did the blog-hits.

And yet whenever the symbiosis (or is it mutual parasitism?) involved here is pointed to, the denials and further denunciations fly thick and fast on all sides.

And through it all, the alternative media is almost completely ignored. Paying attention to it is not a money-maker, whereas the latest chapter of the Endless Tweety Take Down is always good for dinner and drinks at least and may, if done right and continued long enough, get baby a new car.

It is that craven.

But then, when you've got to pay the freight, and blogging is what you do, you do what will make money. You're usually an individual and an entrepreneur, albeit with low start-up and overhead costs, yay -- but maintenance can be crippling, and getting that townhouse or bungalow you've had your eye on is gonna take practically pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The Market wants -- and will buy -- a certain narrow range of product. It's best, always, to offer what the Market will buy, if you want to make money. Simple. And if you're a clever dick, you'll figure out a way to expand the market -- but not too fast, and not too much -- so as to create a unique niche and comfortable nest for yourself, and hope that no one bigger than you tries to move in. Except for scale, this is different than the Corporate Model how? No wonder there's a symbiosis.

Media criticism is perhaps the surest way to blogospheric notice and eventual (well, potential) sustenance, though it generally won't lead to riches. Media criticism is a foundational mainstay of the O'Sphere. It's impossible to imagine the Blogosphere without a heavy and continuous dose of Corporate Media Criticism. It's impossible to imagine the Lefty Blogosphere without continuous brickbats (and occasional hugs) for Tweety Matthews, either.

And yet the irony is that the Corporate Media is in steep decline (partly but not solely because of the Blogospheric competition for viewers and readers). What will the Blogosphere do when the Corporate Media is reduced so much that, say, there's only FOX "News" and a couple of Murdoch papers left on the national scene?

And whole thing had devolved to continuous insanity?

Is that when the Alternative Media will come into its own?

Let us pray.

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